What is Church?

In Harnett county I drive by a church that some one ran into with a car. The damage includes dilapidated steps, damage to the foundation, and other structural issues.  The church building is no longer usable.  I am angry that an accident could happen and destroy a faith community’s place of worship.   

Yet the church is not supposed to be made of brick and mortar, but rather built from those who find salvation in Christ alone.  The church is more than steeples, baptistries, and pews.  The church is you, I, and our neighbors, both near and far.

I am angered when church buildings are abused, but when did I last get angry that the “church” is being abused?  I confess sometimes that I get so fixated on buildings and traditions that I neglect people and needs.  Oh, how I want to be someone who recognizes that church is definitely about people.  

The church is being abused when children are trafficked.  The church is being abused when one teen bullies another.  The church is being abused when women gossip about someone’s misfortune.  The church is being abused when someone is excluded.  The church is being abused when a teenage girl starves herself to feel worthy.  The church is being abused, and have I noticed these and other abuses?  Honestly, I read headlines, but I do not think about those in the headlines as being people, as being the “church.”  Wow, I have a lot to reconsider.

No, I will not suddenly neglect my emotional attachments with church buildings.  Actually I am grateful to be getting married in the same church where I was baptized, expressed my call to ministry, and watched my Granddaddy attend church for the last time.  The stained glass windows, communion table, and hymnals are all reminders of times when God has met with me and with those I care about. 

However, more than any tangible symbols of church, I remember the church, that “great cloud of witnesses” who taught me and nurtured me.  I cherish those who inspired me to keep pursuing my faith and modeled how to persevere in extreme circumstances.  Thankfully these folks acted like the “church” should act.

So will you take the challenge with me to rethink how we define “church”?  Will you join me in prayer for those in the “church” who are being abused?

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